Learning From Our Elders Through Movies

Learning From Our Elders Through Movies

Learning From Our Elders Through Movies. By Frankie Wallace.

People often state, “We can always learn from our elders,” but many who say this don’t give us sufficient reason why. In fact, we often treat our elders with kid gloves, sometimes for good reason — as recent events are teaching us.

Where we may fail to see the strengths in our seniors and the lessons they have to teach us, there are movies to fill that gap, movies that have tried and succeeded in showing us why we should respect our elders and what we can learn from them. Let’s examine a few of these movies, the lessons we can learn from them, and why it’s important to learn these lessons from our elders, now more than ever.



Hip Hop-eration

Who said that when you get older, your joints start freezing up, you can no longer walk, and you certainly can no longer dance? Just tell that to Hip Hop-eration.  At their age, you’d think, “they’re more likely to break a hip than to bust a move.”

Hip Hop-eration is a documentary about the world’s oldest dance troupe. Based out of New Zealand and founded by Billie Jordan, the troupe comprises 22 members from 68-96 years old. Among their crew, several are deaf, one member is blind, and four use specialized equipment due to mobility issues. Additionally, none of them had ever danced before joining the group. 

In the documentary, with the help of New Zealand’s KRASH and DZIAH dance troupes and Street Dance New Zealand, Hip Hop-eration goes from beginning dancers to appearing in Las Vegas at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship. Even though the members of Hip-Hop-eration are old in body and they know that a fall could cause severe injury, the troupe is young at heart. What they can’t do physically is made up for by their youthful enthusiasm and willingness to try something new.  

Silent Pioneers

Today, when most people think of the LGBTQ+ community, they think of members who are marching in Pride Parades, or perhaps a young person they know who may identify with the community. What most people don’t think about are the elderly gays and lesbians who fought for their rights and helped shape many of the rights and privileges that the LGBTQ+ community enjoys today.

Silent Pioneers is a documentary you can access through the Internet Archive. The film “explores age-related issues of older lesbians and gay men, revealing their experiences, struggles, hardships, and personal triumphs.” You see the lives of eight gay men and women during a period when their sexuality was a forbidden topic. Silent Pioneers looks into the lives of a gay couple who had been together for over 50 years, a German-Jewish refugee who hid his sexuality during the Holocaust, and a grandmother who revealed her sexuality to her grandchildren. 

Silent Pioneers dispels many stereotypes and myths regarding homosexuality, including the stereotype that homosexuals cannot have long, involved relationships. The documentary also shows how this community’s emergence from the shadows has affected the people presented in the documentary and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

While Silent Pioneers shows how far the LGBTQ+community has come, it also helps bring to light how much farther it needs to go, particularly when it comes to access to healthcare. More than half of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals and a full 70% of transgender persons have been subject to bias when accessing healthcare. What makes it even harder for them are the specific health-care-related concerns of the LGBTQ+ community including HIV-related matters and mental health issues. 

Coco

Cocois a Disney movie that shows Hispanic culture in an unprecedented way. It also shows us the importance of connecting with our elders and ancestors while we still can.

In Coco, the main character, Miguel, rebels against his family’s generations-old ban on music. It was banned by his great-grandmother after her husband, Hector, left the family in pursuit of a musical career. Unbeknownst to his great-grandmother, Imelda, Hector was killed as he tried to return home and was cursed to live in the Land of the Dead. The only way he can be saved from his fate is for someone to remember him, and there is only one living person who remembers him, his daughter, Coco. However, she is elderly and has problems remembering much, including the names of her family members.

Towards the end of the movie, Miguel plays a song for Coco, one that her father had sung to her to remember him by. It sparks her memory of her father. Coco then presents Miguel with the second half of a picture that had been torn in two, a picture containing Hector, at which point, Hector’s mother accepts Miguel and music back into the family and Hector is saved.

The YouTube channel, Sideways, examines this aforementioned scene with Coco, and how it aligns with many of newfound benefits of music therapy for dementia patients. It has also been proven that music therapy “may help lessen agitation or aggression in some people with dementia.”

The Takeaway

We don’t live forever. This is a fact of life. A grandparent with dementia like Coco’s may eventually need hospice care and extensive medical coverage, but her legacy will always be with her family. Films like these teach us that while our elders may shuffle off this mortal coil, their knowledge and wisdom can be passed down through multiple generations, even outside the family.


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